Northern Michigan Homeless Shelters Make Health, Safety Changes to Reopen for Winter Season

Winter is coming, and local homeless shelters are preparing for a season unlike any other.

This season, overnight shelters are reopening for the community with new health and safety protocols to keep guests and volunteers shielded from coronavirus.

Things will look a little different at Traverse City’s Safe Harbor shelter.

They’re opening on October 31, Halloween, and everyone will be asked to wear a mask, but not as part of a costume. They’re also implementing physical changes to their building.

“Guests, of course, will be required to wear masks, as well all the staff and volunteers,” said chairperson Mike McDonald. “As guests come in, we’re going to be taking temperatures. We’re going to be asking questions.”

The shelter has turned their TV room and chapel into additional sleeping quarters. They’re installing a massive, heated tent outside for guests to relax and watch TV and space out.

They’re also expanding the sleeping area to allow for social distancing, and each bed will be surrounded by Plexiglas.

“That will essentially allow him to be as almost like a cocoon. For each person is sleeping so they aren’t spreading their germs and they’re not affected by any,” said McDonald.

Isolation rooms will be available for anyone showing symptoms, and they’re offering their guests free, on-call doctor access.

For the month of November, the shelter will be for sleeping-only to see how these changes play out.

“We will not be serving meals will ask the guests to utilize the community meals which are still operating,” said McDonald.

Over in Big Rapids, Our Brothers Keeper Shelter will be open 24/7 with new safety protocols.

“We opened a month early, and again, it’s thanks to all the people who have been so generous to us,” said spokesperson Dolores Horan. “It’s all been cleaned, and sanitized, and it’s all new mattress covers.”

She added that the family areas have been divided and further separated to allow for ample spacing and the shelter is partnering with other area resources to make sure every guest has access to food, warmth and personal growth potential while they’re staying with them.

If you want to donate to the Big Rapids shelter, visit

Safe Harbor in Traverse City says they are in desperate need of volunteers, as many of their helpers are retirees and some have preexisting health conditions, and don’t feel safe working.

If you can volunteer or donate, visit

Categories: Coronavirus